Goon Priest

The Goon Priest

Second Sunday after Epiphany
Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

1 Samuel 3:1-20
John 1:43-51

I wonder what a rewrite of Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad would look like if the setting shifted from punk rock and public relations to church and public witness. What if someone could draw the unforgettable characters in ecclesial matters that Egan does with musicians? (They might have to tone down the bohemian debauchery a little bit). Read more

The Church as Highway Department

Third Sunday of Advent (Year B)

Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11

Luke 1:46-55

1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

John 1:6-8, 19-28

Not long ago I heard a program on NPR about the use of satellite images by human rights groups as a way of tracking atrocities in South Sudan.  Using before and after images human rights workers are able to track changes in the landscape that might indicate a mass grave or the razing of a village.  The satellite images also offer a chance, in some cases, of heading off attacks because preceding a major advance the Janjaweed militias will have to clear trees and build roads to allow their forces to move heavy artillery.  In another recent NPR story about the history of the American interstate system, the author of a book on the subject talked about how Eisenhower, with his military background, liked the idea of long, broad highways that would allow for quick military deployment in the event of an attack.

These NPR stories came to mind when I read Isaiah 40:3, the passage of scripture John the Baptist quotes as he explains to the official religious authorities who exactly he is: “A voice cries out: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way o f the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God” (Isaiah 40:3b).  There is a military sensibility at work in this proclamation that certainly wouldn’t be lost on John or Isaiah’s hearers.  God is making an advance; God is coming to attack the world of robbery, greed and enslavement that have plagued God’s people.  This is not an advance of violence, but rather of liberation and restoration—“good news to the oppressed…liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners.” Read more

Lamb and Shepherd: The Feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

The Reign of Christ
Christ the King

Ezekiel 34: 11-16
Ephesians 1: 15-23 OR 1 Corinthians 15:20-28
Matthew 25: 31-46

There is a poster on the wall in the weight room of our local recreation centre where I go twice a week for strength training, along with some amazing 70 and 80 year olds (yes, at forty-six my nickname is “the kid”). I try not to look at the poster as it gets my goat, blithely proclaiming that the destination matters not, only the journey is important. Except, of course, the destination in large part determines the journey and without a destination the journey can get pretty lost and chaotic. This coming Sunday, Reign of Christ or Christ the King Sunday, the last Sunday in this liturgical year, is set aside to highlight the destination of our journey together in Christian faith. Having come full circle and before we begin again a new Christian year, it is to remind us, with our hearts enlightened, of who we are and whose we are and of the hope to which Christ has called us. Read more

It’s About Us

18th Sunday After Pentecost; 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Philippians 4:1-9; Matthew 22:1-14

Perhaps our response to Sunday’s lectionary gospel text ought to be Quaker-like silence.

It’s Matthew, after all, so we are familiar with the uncompromising eschatology. But what to say? It’s a passage that contains one of the hard(est) sayings of Jesus: plenty of mystery but seemingly little grace.

In Matthew’s version of the parable of the wedding banquet (would that it was Luke’s!), a king plans a great nuptial feast for his son. Twice he sends slaves to summon the invited guests but, for reasons left unsaid, “they would not come.” (The second wave of slaves are brutally slaughtered by some of the guests—a shocking, inscrutable over-reaction that prefigures more violence to come). Read more

So Much Unfairness of Things

15th Sunday after Pentecost
26th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32
Philippians 2:1-13
Matthew 21: 23-32

“You can’t conceive, my child, nor can I or anyone
the … appalling … strangeness of the mercy of God.”
-Graham Greene, Brighton Rock

Mrs. Turpin, the main character in Flannery O’Connor’s short story, “Revelation,” (published 1965) is grateful. She’s aware, after all, that God could have created things differently. She might not have been white or middle class, which, she thanks God, she is. She’s even grateful that her daily, sometimes distasteful, encounters with poor blacks and “white trash” remind her that “…one had to have certain things before you could know certain things.”

What she knows is this: she lives in a fair and ordered world, each person occupying the place he or she deserves and awaiting, in the life to come, a just and well-earned reward. If she weren’t such a mid-twentieth century model of Southern primness, she might be mistaken for a twenty-first century bourgeois Buddhist hipster, knowingly whispering, “karma’s a bitch,” in the presence of the unenlightened.

But there’s another thing Mrs. Turpin knows: the world is neither so fair nor so ordered as she would like. Life’s chaos and unfairness gnaws at her and she finds herself grasping for reassurance, often with disturbing results: Read more